The breathtaking pace at which the game was played added to the drama, but it was the manner in which each team kept picking themselves up and fighting their way back into the game which made it such an engrossing encounter. In a contest of this proportion there are many key moments and here are the most significant.
MCGRATH'S INJURY In most matches you have to wait until the toss before something important happens, but the sight of Glenn McGrath being carried off Edgbaston with a badly twisted ankle 90 minutes before the start of play would have given England's players a huge boost. Australia have won 66 per cent of the Test matches they have played with McGrath in their side, only 46 without him.
THE TOSS History and the weather suggested that the captain who won the toss should bowl. Ricky Ponting called correctly and bowled, yet it was the wrong decision. The ball deviated very little on the first morning and Ponting reduced the possible impact of his match-winner - Shane Warne.
THE FIRST BALL After winning the toss a captain wants his bowlers to create pressure by immediately being on the spot. Brett Lee, rather than the metronomic McGrath, bowled the first ball and it was a wide. Marcus Trescothick struck Lee for three boundaries in his second over and this set the tone for the day.
INTRODUCTION OF WARNE Ponting brought Warne into the attack after 13 overs with England on 56 for 0. In the first Test Andrew Strauss and Trescothick looked clueless and shotless against him, but in his first two overs here both batsmen smashed him back over his head for a four and a six. These strokes signalled England's intentions to be more positive.
THE ARRIVAL OF FLINTOFF After a magnificent start England lost three quick wickets, moving from 164 for 1 to 187 for 4. Flintoff looked hopeless against Warne at Lord's and at the start of his innings here he appeared equally bemused. But then he seemed to say "sod it" to himself and went for his shots. He got off the mark by chipping Warne just over mid-off's head for four, but then struck the leg-spinner for three sixes. With each shot his confidence returned.
FLINTOFF AND PIETERSEN The prospect of Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen batting together has caused England's supporters to behave like Pavlov's dogs. And on this occasion they did not disappoint. In 17.3 absorbing overs, the pair plundered the Australians for 103 runs. It was brilliant to watch, and it allowed England to reach 407, a total that allowed them to control the game.
VAUGHAN'S RUN-OUT You never know what you are likely to get in the field from Michael Vaughan. He is capable of taking stunning catches but also drops sitters. Australia had reached 118 for 2 when Damien Martyn pushed a Flintoff delivery to Vaughan at mid-off and set off for a single. The England captain swooped and threw the stumps down at the bowler's end with Martyn nine inches out of his ground. England went into lunch elated - Australia had gifted them their third wicket.
FINISHING THE AUSSIE TAIL England teams have often had problems finishing off the opposition, but on this occasion Australia's last five wickets added only 46 runs.
WARNE'S RIPPER After dismissing Australia for 308 England sole objective was not to lose a wicket before the close. But Warne produced a stunning delivery to bowl Strauss. It pitched at least 18 inches outside off stump and bowled the bewildered batsman behind his legs. The way the ball spun sent panic waves through the England dressing-room.
LEE'S BOWLING Everybody expected Warne to be the major threat, but Lee ripped out three England batsmen during a wonderful spell of fast bowling. The wicket of Vaughan was the most disturbing. For the third time in four innings he lost his off stump. Vaughan's reaction to each dismissal suggests that the ball has kept low. It has not. He is playing from the crease when he should be getting forward. His bat is also coming across like a sliding door.
PIETERSEN'S SIXES England, on 31 for 4, looked spellbound before Pietersen hoisted Warne twice over the leg side for six. His innings did not last long but got England going.
THE LAST-WICKET STAND England were only 230 runs ahead when Simon Jones joined Flintoff at the crease. Both players went for their shots but it was Flintoff's hitting - he struck Kasprowicz for 20 and Lee for 18 in an over - which changed the context of the game. Jones should have been given out leg before wicket before the partnership had reached 51, but England's second-innings total of 182 left Australia requiring 282 for victory.
IT'S FLINTOFF AGAIN Australia had reached 47 for 0 when Vaughan invited Flintoff to bowl. Flintoff had injured his left shoulder while batting but he tore in and bowled Langer with his second ball. Ponting fell to the last ball of the over and England's hopes of victory were alive again.
HARMISON'S SLOWER BALL Harmison has made his name through being one of the most hostile bowlers in the world, yet the brilliant slower ball that bowled Michael Clarke showed how far he has come. A delivery of this type would have been the last thing that Clarke expected.
WARNE'S SLIP Australia's 10-wicket genius had hardly put a foot wrong in the match but when he trod on his stumps Australia were still 62 runs short of their target.
JONES'S DROP No, not Geraint, it was Simon on this occasion. The dropped chance at third man was followed by a wild delivery from Flintoff that went for five no-balls. It left Australia needing just nine runs to win and the Ashes appeared lost for England.
THE THIRD BALL OF THE 65TH OVER Where were you? I was in the press box at Edgbaston with my stomach in knots, chewing on the end of a pen. What joy, what pain. I could have cried for Kasprowicz, one of the nicest men in cricket, but it was just what the Ashes needed.
England announce an unchanged squad for Old Trafford. Australia contemplate bringing Shane Watson into the squad and playing Stuart MacGill, a second leg-spinner, in Manchester, where we will put ourselves through it all again, starting on Thursday at 10.30am.Reuse content